Taking an unusual approach for a Queenslander, this house by Plazibat & Jemmott Architects anchors into its sloping site, with living spaces “spilling” out onto the lawn.
A house is the sum of its inhabitants, its place and its history. A home is the culmination of lessons learned, influences distilled and artefacts gathered and displayed, as well as a reflection of the subtle idiosyncrasies of a particular family. Fig Tree Pocket House is the Plazibat family’s home, designed by architect Shane Plazibat in consultation with his wife Liz.
The Plazibat family has lived in the Brisbane enclave of Fig Tree Pocket for twelve years. Less than a kilometre away from the current site, on a sloping piece of bushland, Shane designed their first home. Later, when it was sold to secure the purchase of the current site, the family lived in a John Dalton-designed house close by. Over time, an affinity with their neighbourhood has deepened, and through practice and experience a catalogue of ideas has developed, as made evident in the design of this home.
In a conscious gesture, Fig Tree Pocket House anchors itself in the sloped terrain. This is unusual for Queensland, where tradition determines that a dwelling sits upon and overlooks the landscape. For Shane and Liz, the practical advantage of immediate garden access and the opportunity to connect to and enclose the site were guiding principles.
The house is approached along an easement on the high side of the site and is revealed obliquely by a presence that is low and long. The single-storey entry building is a space that can be used for tennis, ball games and car parking. It is connected to the upper level of the two-storey house proper by two bridges. At this juncture the land has been cut and retained, creating a void that sustains a vertical garden of bamboo.
Spatially the house is divided between the bedrooms upstairs and living spaces downstairs. These rooms are arranged lineally, east to west, and connected by a long timber stair. The kitchen is the exception to the plan in that it is positioned independently as a single-storey pavilion to screen the western boundary. Along with the pool, it completes the enclosure of the lawn. The beauty of this arrangement is its simplicity and the way it has been positioned within the landscape to perfectly capture a northern aspect.
The living room, which is located centrally at ground level, makes the most of its orientation. It is the largest space in the house, made larger still when its long edges slide away and it spills forward onto the lawn. The back of the room opens to the double-height bamboo garden. This void works to expel warm air and to draw cool northern breezes through the house. The planting offers both climatic and visual relief, throwing afternoon shadows onto the wall to be captured in the framed aperture of the living room opening.
The living space extends to make a narrow verandah that floats over the lawn, transforming the terrace ledge into a bench seat. This encourages backyard cricket spectators and provides a space in which the family can assemble for casual gatherings. It is here, on the sun-soaked slate, that one might dry off after a swim before collecting an ice-cream to enjoy on the lawn.
Upstairs, the bedrooms are balanced by generous bathrooms and storage space. Each room is accessed from a corridor that opens to the bamboo garden below. This considered arrangement promotes natural ventilation, good daylight penetration and efficiency of plan. At the end of the corridor, the bridge to the carport takes you past the laundry and connects you at the upper level to the outside.
Externally, the volumes of the house are distinguished through the use of materials: rendered blockwork, painted fibre cement sheets with cover battens and New Guinea rosewood timber-framed windows. On the northern facade a long aluminium sun hood and continuous aluminium trim are used to amplify the horizontal composition of strip window openings. Stratification is achieved with colour, through a parallel exchange of charcoal and white.
The home withstands the test of functionality, seamlessly using concealed support spaces to maintain clarity of space. The small lounge adjacent to the living space is an example of this – it houses the television, removing it as the focus of the living room. The service galley plays the same game by accommodating the fridge and pantry, affording the kitchen a liberal disguise in the purity of ink-black granite and glass.
Without a specific environmental agenda, Fig Tree Pocket House poetically responds to the climatic demands of its bush setting. It achieves this passively and with the beauty and refinement of a house that may otherwise perform less effectively in this locale. The outcome is testament to the logic, restraint and consideration that have contributed to making such a liveable home.